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National Lottery

Volume 205: debated on Friday 6 March 1992

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11 am

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the Government's plans, set out in a White Paper being published today, to introduce a national lottery for good causes.

As hon. Members will know, we have been considering for some time the merits of a national lottery. It raises a number of complex practical issues, but the potential benefits are substantial. In the past in our own country, a lottery funded the foundation of the British museum. More recently, in Canada a lottery also helped to fund the Olympic games. A lottery helped to fund the building of the Sydney opera house.

Many other countries have long been using the proceeds of national lotteries to fund a wide range of projects which improve the quality of life of their people. Every other country in western Europe has a national lottery. In the years ahead it will become increasingly difficult in practice to prevent their lottery tickets from being sold in this country. Without a national lottery of our own, other countries rather than our own will benefit.

In the light of all these considerations, and bearing in mind the opportunities it will give us to raise substantial sums for the public benefit, the Government have decided to introduce a national lottery to be promoted throughout the United Kingdom.

We propose that the national lottery proceeds should be used to support projects of lasting benefit to the nation. The good causes to be funded will be sports, arts, our heritage and charities. This means that sporting facilities could be further improved and new ones provided; a whole range of additional facilities for young people could be developed; our historic buildings, houses, museums, galleries and cathedrals could be restored and worthwhile new buildings constructed; art treasures could be purchased for our national collections; and a wide range of other charities could be supported.

A national lottery could be operating by 1994, but it will take some time to become fully established. Once fully developed, it could raise up to £1 billion a year for good causes. I must emphasise that this will be additional funding. The Government do not intend that the money provided from the lottery should substitute for existing expenditure programmes. Nor do we believe that lottery proceeds should go to the main areas of public expenditure, such as the national health service. These services are of fundamental importance to the community and must continue to be funded by the Exchequer in the normal way.

We have concluded that a single national lottery is the best way forward. This would allow major prizes to be offered and it would maximise the potential funds which could be raised for good causes, while minimising the risk of fraud or mismanagement.

The White Paper sets out the broad framework for the operation of the national lottery. There will be an independent national lottery board whose task will be to distribute the proceeds of the lottery. The day-to-day operation and management of the lottery will be undertaken by the private sector under contract and subject to strict regulation.

Today's White Paper sets out a number of practical issues, and on some of them we want to consult interested parties. We are aware of the concerns of the football pools companies and others. We intend to discuss their concerns with them, and to assess the possible effect of a national lottery on their activities. In the light of these discussions we shall consider whether there is a case for any changes in the controls under which they operate at present.

Charities will be among the beneficiaries of the lottery. But we still need to consider how best to protect their interests, both in the allocation of the proceeds and the effect on their income from existing small lotteries. We would welcome the views of all charitable organisations on both these points.

A national lottery will be a popular development of great significance. It provides a unique opportunity to improve in a lasting way the quality of our national life. I look forward to its early introduction.

The Government make themselves ridiculous by announcing in the dying days of a Parliament a decision that they could have taken years ago, and it is particularly absurd of the Government to introduce a White Paper which they will have no opportunity of implementing.

Does the Home Secretary recall that as late as January the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said—seven times, to be precise—that a decision on all these matters could not be taken without careful examination and consideration? He was especially precise about the need to examine the impact on the pools industry and, in his words,
"to give those directly affected a chance to express their views before a decision is taken."
That promise has been broken. Since that speech, no consultation with the pools industry has taken place, yet the Home Secretary has made his statement today. That amounts to nothing more than the Government taking decisions first and fraudulently holding the consultations afterwards.

The way in which this statement has been hurriedly cobbled together is demonstrated by the bland announcement that it will raise £1 billion. How can the Home Secretary possibly know that when, according to the White Paper, he cannot even tell us the extent of the tax to be levied from each lottery ticket?

Does the Home Secretary understand that the Labour party, in a policy statement over a year ago, announced its intention of giving serious consideration to a lottery? That remains our position. We well understand the benefits that a national lottery might provide—to the arts, to sport, to our heritage and to charities. There are, however, substantial problems to be overcome before one can be introduced, and I know very well that in their present mood the Government are not prepared to examine any of them.

The Under-Secretary promised consultation on a number of vital issues, all of which have since been subject to arbitrary decisions taken, not in the national interest, but in the hope of gaining brief party-political publicity. I intend, therefore, to ask the Home Secretary a number of questions to which I have no real hope of getting answers. I do so simply to demonstrate the irresponsibility of his position. The difference is that we anticipate being in a position to implement a lottery; the right hon. Gentleman only considers the hope of cobbling together a few votes between now and 9 April.

Is the Home Secretary certain that the lottery tax he proposes will not result in some small but important charities receiving less from the lottery than they do from their own current schemes? Is he sure that some small charities which now exist on fund-raising schemes will not be driven out of business altogether? Since the leak to The Times which appeared this morning, small charities of every sort have been phoning Members of this House, saying that their existence has been threatened. What assurance can the Home Secretary give them that that is not true?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the right hon. Gentleman sure that he can avoid the most serious consequences to the football pools, with enormously adverse effects on Treasury revenue, with enormously adverse effects on the essential income of football clubs, and above all with deep damage to Merseyside, an area already grievously affected by unemployment?

The next Labour Government will examine these and other essential questions with the seriousness that the subject deserves. Only when the difficulties are resolved will it be right for the lottery scheme to go ahead.

That was one of the right hon. Gentleman's more memorable performances. He is a sourpuss—there is no event that he attends on which he does not cast a blight. In this case, he is a party-pooper.

In the past 18 months, during which the right hon. Gentleman has been my shadow, he has come forward with no creative idea. He could have committed the Labour party to a national lottery had he wanted to, but he has remained silent. There has been an absence of decision and a daily struggle in the right hon. Gentleman's frame between sloth and indifference.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about charities. I refer him to paragraphs 33 to 37 of the White Paper in which we discuss the effect upon large and small charities. We specifically say:
"The Government wants to consult widely with the major charitable interests and will pay careful attention to their views … The Government would welcome views on whether the monetary limits"
in the small lotteries on which some charities depend
"should be increased and, if so, to what level."
We also mention the existing rules on small lotteries.

On the question of football pools, I refer the right hon. Gentleman to paragraphs 30 and 31. This morning my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State spoke to the Pools Promoters Association and to representatives of Vernons and Zetters, and I spoke to the managing director of Littlewoods. We explained to them what was in our mind, which they knew perfectly well. We say specifically in paragraphs 30 and 31 that we want to have meetings soon to consider their assessment of the effect of a national lottery upon their activities.

As the House knows, there are different views on the matter. The pools companies say that they would be seriously affected and quote examples from other countries. But in other countries with national lotteries the pools operation has not been affected. We want to make a proper assessment of that and want to discuss with the pools companies in the light of that consideration whether we should take steps to change the existing rules in relation to pools. The Government have no intention of forcing the pools companies out of business, and I do not think that that will happen. Pools can exist perfectly naturally and successfully alongside a national lottery.

Order. Hon. Members know that this is private Members' day and that time is precious. I will allow questions to continue until about 11.30, but I ask for questions about the national lottery and not on wider issues.

Would my right hon. Friend agree after a mere moment's reflection that the remarks of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) are reminiscent of a 50p piece—two-faced and seven-sided? Does he also agree—

I do so immediately, M r. Speaker, but you will understand that as a numismatist I was factually correct. Of course I withdraw.

Does my right hon. Friend also agree that his proposal, which will be widely welcomed, will bring new money to charities because many British citizens are already spending their money on lottery tickets elsewhere in Europe?

That is correct. It will become progressively difficult in the years ahead to prevent the sale of lottery tickets between European countries. We are the only country in Europe without a national lottery and money spent in other countries does not benefit Britain. Therefore, our proposal seems doubly sensible.

Is it not perverse that this Government of all Governments should be involved in nationalising gambling? Has the right hon. Gentleman not considered that in many cases gambling is an addiction which leads to great hardship in families and that for the state to be involved in its deliberate promotion is a dubious role for a Home Secretary? Has he considered the damage that state lotteries have caused in other countries, such as the Republic of Ireland where the 16 major charities are petitioning the Government to end the national lottery?

What possible guarantee can the right hon. Gentleman give that the revenues, uncertain as they will inevitably be, from a lottery will not be used as an excuse by Government to stop money that would normally come from the Treasury to back the arts and other desirable heritage functions?

It seems that the Liberal party is hooked on yet another unpopular policy, because from what the hon. Gentleman says I understand that he opposes the proposal. The fact that it is a "national" lottery does not mean that it will be nationalised. It will be operated by a private contractor and the national lottery board will be at arm's distance from the Government.

I remind the hon. Gentleman of what is said about additionality in paragraph 41 of the White Paper:
"Under standard conventions, the disbursements of a national lottery will be classified as public expenditure in the national accounts. The Government does not intend that the money provided from the lottery should substitute for that provided in other ways: the proceeds will not be brought within the planning total, and the Government will not make any case by case reduction in conventional expenditure programmes to take account of awards from the lottery proceeds."

I congratulate most warmly my right hon. Friend and the Government on their bold and imaginative decision. It is a great pity that the other parties have not given it their firm support. As a former Minister for the Arts, I believe that there is enormous potential for extra resources for the arts, sports and the environment and for other fields, thus improving the quality of life in the 1990s. Will my right hon. Friend continue to give every assurance that resources from the national lottery will not be seen as a substitute for public expenditure?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his warm welcome and pay tribute to the work that he carried out when he was responsible for our arts policy and for funding the arts. I know that he has supported for a long time our having a lottery, as does the present Minister for the Arts, who has given me great assistance in preparing the policy. I assure my right hon. Friend that resources from the lottery will not be a substitute. I remind the House of the substantial increase in arts spending under the Government—56 per cent. higher in real terms than it was in 1978–79. The arts budget this year is some £560 million.

Does the Home Secretary accept that the only wage packet for thousands of families in Merseyside comes from the member of the family who works in the pools? He proposes to introduce this measure without undertaking a single piece of work on the likely employment consequences. We accept that it is totally proper for the right hon. Gentleman to do as he wishes with his own money, but it is intolerable for him to gamble with the jobs of my constituents. Will he give a commitment that if he proceeds with the scheme the centre for the national lottery will be in Merseyside?

I respect the hon. Gentleman's views and I read his speech in the January debate on this subject. I also understand his concern about employment prospects. It is by no means certain that there will be such adverse effects upon the pools. We want to discuss that matter with the three pools companies, and especially in the hon. Gentleman's case with Littlewoods. It is quite possible that the pools companies, either individually or collectively, will make a bid to run the national lottery.

I note what the hon. Gentleman said about the site from which the lottery should operate. I cannot comment upon that now, but we shall be having constructive discussions with the pools companies because, obviously, we do not want to put them out of business. I do not think that a national lottery will put them out of business, but we must explore with them their concerns.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his enthusiastic and prompt response to the National Lottery Bill which I presented only six weeks ago. It shows that the Government are still full of dynamic action. His proposal will be immensely popular in the country because it will bring much pleasure and reward for thousands of people every week, many of whom will not be well off. It will bring an immense amount of help, which the taxpayer does not provide, to the arts, sport, heritage and charities.

My right hon. Friend's proposal is timely because when my Bill was presented Albania was the only other country in Europe without a national lottery and now it has one. If we did not have one, we would be alone. If a national lottery had not been introduced quickly, British money would quickly flow out of the country to foreign causes, even though there are many good causes in Britain that we have yet to satisfy.

I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend on being a pioneer in introducing his Bill in January, thus concentrating discussion on the matter. He brought the matter to a head in the House. There was considerable support for his Bill not only from the Government side, but from many Opposition Members. However, during the debate on my hon. and learned Friend's Bill, the Opposition spokesmen were rather lukewarm. The plain fact is that the Labour party would have made no decision on a national lottery. I doubt whether it will be mentioned in the Labour manifesto, although perhaps now it may be —it is a johnny-come-lately.

I agree with my hon. Friend that, if we do not do this, other lottery tickets will be sold here and it will be increasingly difficult to stop that, so this is a sensible move. The important point is that, in the words of Lord Rothschild in 1978, this is a harmless entertainment, a mild flutter, for many people, and our public life will benefit from it.

In considering whether to publish the White Paper, did the Secretary of State have the opportunity to study the Coopers and Lybrand report on the impact of a national lottery? On the evidence collected in Belgium, Australia and the Republic of Ireland, it predicted that a lottery would kill off the pools industry within a matter of weeks.

Has the Home Secretary taken into account the fact that 4,600 jobs on Merseyside alone will be put at risk, and the predictions are that, even if the national lottery scheme were located there, it would provide only about 200 jobs? Has he taken into account the fact that places such as Merseyside cannot afford to gamble with the jobs that are at stake in these proposals? Will he take it from me that the hostility that he will arouse among the people of Merseyside with this proposal will have an impact not only on the progress of this scheme but on the Tory party in the forthcoming election?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not over-exaggerate any likely effect. The interesting thing about the Belgian experience, as set out in the letter, is that its pools were operating on the British fixtures list because there was not a long, strong tradition of clubs playing there. Therefore, there was not the same commitment to and interest in soccer in Belgium as there is in this country, where it is the national sport. In other countries where soccer is well established as a national sport, the football pools co-exist quite happily with the national lottery. These are matters which, with the pools operators, we shall be considering.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and warmly welcome his announcement. It is very opportune because I believe, as a former Minister for Sport, that it may well enhance Manchester's chances of winning the Olympic bid, which will lead to the building of many excellent new sports facilities. Following what my right hon. Friend said about the flood of money to national lotteries in other countries, may I press him for a little more detail on the time scale of introducing a Bill and then bringing in a national lottery, because there is some urgency to stop the sale of other national lottery tickets here?

After the general election, when we return to office, we shall introduce a Bill to implement a national lottery and that will be put on the statute book as soon as possible. It will establish arrangements for a national lottery and a national lottery board and all the regulations needed. We estimate that it will probably require a year to 18 months to get established. The arrangements for selling lottery tickets through different outlets, which could include small shops, large shops, village post offices—

Yes; there will be a great deal of job creation as a result of this activity, not least in the disposal of the proceeds. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) for the work that he did for sport when he was Minister for Sport. The lottery will allow many new sports facilities to be built across the whole range of sports, including new stadiums, tracks and clubs, quite apart from supporting major international events. It is an exciting prospect.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), I am concerned about the way that this project has been introduced, and it will be clear to the public why it has been introduced today. Nevertheless, as a supporter of a national lottery for a long time, I welcome the decision. However, the Government will not implement their plans because the Conservative party will not be forming the Government after the general election. I know that the next Labour Government will look at this matter in great detail, immediately, with full consultation to ensure that the jobs of workers in the pools business are protected. I share the feeling that there has been some over-exaggeration of the threat to pools jobs that is posed by a lottery, but I hope that the Labour Government will look at this matter quickly and carefully to ensure that the national lottery will have the confidence of all the people.

I do not believe that what the hon. Lady says will happen, but, even if it did, I cannot imagine a Labour Administration giving a national lottery any priority. I congratulate the hon. Lady on her strong and consistent support for a national lottery. She has been outspoken about it; and I heard her speech on 17 January, in which she said that she does the football pools every week, and would continue to do so even if there were a national lottery. I think that that will be the reaction of many people. I hope that she is lucky on the pools this week.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on his statement. It is up to his usual standard in creative and imaginative thinking. Does he see the premium savings bonds disappearing? Secondly, will he ensure that shareholders' money will not be used for buying tickets? Thirdly, what about regional money? Will the money collected in one region be allowed to be used in another, or will it be spent only in that region? How will that be organised?

I thank my hon. Friend for his congratulatons— for such I took them to be. In paragraph 48, we say two things about regional money. First, we say:

"Consideration might also be given to the possibility of participants recording their general preference for the use of the proceeds at the time they pay their stake."
They could nominate which charity or activity it went to, Secondly, we say:
"Amongst the factors which the Board might want to take into account is whether proceeds raised in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should he devoted to causes in those countries. The Government would welcome views on these, and any other ways, in which the distribution of lottery proceeds could be arranged."
That is a matter for consideration.

I am attracted to a national lottery, not least because I recently won 512 in the Florida state lottery. There are those who say that the Government have been organising a national lottery with the economy over the past 13 years.

Will the Home Secretary say a little more about charities? He said that money from the national lottery would not go to the national health service to replace those moneys that come from the Exchequer, but a number of charities work within the NHS. Finally, what sort of prizes does the Secretary of State envisage being paid out?

As the hon. Gentleman is a lottery punter —I did not know that he engaged in the Florida state lottery—he knows how they work and he has been lucky enough to win something. The odds are quite strongly against winning. I would expect a large number of medical charities to be among the beneficiaries of a lottery, just as charities for disabled people, for education and for charitable projects that help health activities generally will be.

The prize will depend on the stake, which is envisaged to be 50p or £1. It is for the lottery contractors to determine that. The White Paper deals with whether there should be a maximum. We are disinclined to set a maximum, but that will be a matter for the lottery operators and contractors to decide. Lord Rothschild said in his report in 1978 that there should be a maximum prize of £500,000—in current day money £1·5 million. Only the other week the prize for the pools exceeded £2 million. It is for the lottery operator to decide how to distribute prizes and how much they should be.

This is the first Government to show real common sense on this issue in modern times, and I welcome this move by the Home Secretary. It could also have an enormously important social effect if my right hon. Friend would say that post offices, and particularly rural sub-post offices, will be able to handle the scheme. That would save many rural sub-post offices in our constituencies.

I thank my hon. Friend for his words of support. I think that, like many others, he feels that perhaps this could have been done very much earlier. The scheme will benefit many good causes and will improve the quality of our national life.

It would be for the lottery contractors to decide what outlets they would use. I should have thought that they would be very attracted to village post offices. They are important outlets in many village communities and people have easy access to them. I should have thought that they would be high on the contractor's list.

Order. As several new points have been raised by hon. Members—I hope that that will continue—I shall allow questions to proceed for a further 10 minutes. At that stage we must return to the private Members' business.

Will the Home Secretary tell us whether this matter of principle, which it is, was included in the Conservative party's election manifesto at the last general election? Does he agree that some of his supporters might have reservations about the proposal on the ground that it gives a social imprimatur to gambling that it otherwise might not have? Apart from the charities which he has mentioned, will he tell us which good causes are either not being sustained by votes made by the House or which could easily be sustained from moneys voted by Parliament? Will not the members of the board be put in a position of considerable potential patronage? Does he think that appointed rather than elected persons of this sort, especially when there are other charities that perhaps will be affected, is compatible with representative democracy?

I am sure that the proposal will be clearly stated in our forthcoming manifesto. It is not our intention to promote gambling. A lottery is the softest form of gambling, the hardest being casino gambling. Lord Rothschild described a lottery as "harmless entertainment". I think that many people see it as that. They consider it to be just a flutter.

The hon. Gentleman referred to causes that are not supported. In all the areas that I have mentioned—sports, the arts and our heritage—I think that successive Governments have always wanted to spend more than that which is available. We have spent substantial amounts, and a lottery will provide an opportunity to spend more.

It is true that the members of the board will have a grave responsibility when it comes to allocating moneys. It is the sort of responsibility that has been borne by those who have to dispense money that is raised by various forms of television charitable raising of money, such as telethon, the BBC's "Children in Need" appeal and red-nose day. Those who decide which organisations shall be the beneficiaries take tremendously scrupulous care in so doing. Charities are examined and those involved like there to be a national spread. The board will have to conduct its affairs as scrupulously as that.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having finally overcome the reluctance of the Treasury, which we know has for years been against a national lottery. When putting the scheme out to contract, would it be possible to include a condition that rural post offices, for example, must be included in the list of sales places? Will he comment on the fact that Liberal Members came into the Chamber to be killjoys in their response to his proposal but took no interest earlier in the debate on tenants?

I cannot comment on my hon. Friend's final point. However, it is on the record and will be used.

My hon. Friend's suggestion about post offices is one that we can consider. There are various matters that we will still wish to consider, including small shops as well as large retail outlets. I am glad that we have been able to win over all members of the Government in support of this measure.

Does the Home Secretary recognise that many people will see his announcement as one of the last sleazy acts of an exceptionally sleazy Government? What additional protection has he considered for charities such as the one with which I am proud to be associated, the National Children's Home, which refuse to accept anything from the proceeds of gambling? What defence has he for coming to the House, and using public money and parliamentary time, to announce something that was agreed by the Tory party only last night as part of its election spending and election commitments? What justification is there for doing that with the public purse?

The White Paper was not printed overnight; it was decided some time ago. The hon. Lady is being rather churlish. I suggest that she should have listened to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). As I understand it, he is half-heartedly in favour of a lottery, so the Labour party will be committed to one as well. If there is the chance of possibly quite large sums—up to £1 billion—being distributed when a lottery is fully established, a considerable extra amount of money can go to good causes.

The policy of charities depends on their trustees. If the trustees do not wish their charity to receive money from small lotteries, that is up to them. The hon. Lady will see in the paragraphs in the White Paper dealing with charities that we wish to examine with them necessary safeguards and protections. Charities will be among the beneficiaries of a national lottery.

The gestation period for coming to this decision has been inordinately long. I recall that in my maiden speech, which I made about 18 years ago, I spoke about lotteries. I therefore greatly welcome my right hon. Friend's decision. How many people does he believe will be directly employed by a national lottery? Will he consider the Spanish example with a view to employing disabled people and disadvantaged people to run the whole show?

I could not make an estimate of the number of people who will be needed to run the lottery. There will, of course, be many thousands of agents across the country, and the disposal of the proceeds will be job-creative in many instances. Major capital projects will stem from the lottery and so it will have a positive effect. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his percipience. It has taken a long time to ripen.

Is it not a fitting epitaph for the Government that after 13 years, having chucked 3 million people on the dole and having a public sector borrowing requirement of £30 billion, they come to the House—[Interruption.]—they live in a never-never fantasy land—to talk about running another gambling den'? Will the Home Secretary consult the 50-odd Tory Members who are members of Lloyd's—[Interruption.] —on how best to run a lottery? They have got themselves into a right old mess. Will he get in touch with the Littlewoods organisation and all the other similar concerns that have given money to the Tory party over the years and tell them that as the Government are trampling on their territory they will send the money back?

My hon. Friends have showed their contempt for the hon. Gentleman's usual display of spleen and venom. As I understand it, he is about to fight an election and there is a commitment, I believe, in the Labour party manifesto to introduce a national lottery. I trust that he will be able to support the Labour party.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement and his commitment to speak to the pools companies. Will he bear it in mind that most people, if they had to choose, would rather the proceeds or their flutter went to good causes than into the extremely deep pockets of the pools millionaires, where they have gone in the past? Will he confirm that, although there may be some genuine concerns about jobs in the pools companies, there are good prospects for jobs in the arts, in welfare, in sport and in the environment, directly or indirectly, from the lottery?

Estimates have been made. The interests that promote a national lottery have talked of very high figures in terms of job creation. I am sure that it will have that effect. I believe that as a result there will be much greater activity in the arts and in sport, including building projects, and across a range of charities, and in preserving our heritage. I hear what my hon. Friend says about the pools. As I have said, we shall discuss with the companies the arrangements that may be necessary.

I wish to speak up for urban post offices. Are they not just as important as rural post offices? I have had to fight to save five in my constituency.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many churches, of all denominations, and other places of worship involving many faiths, organise raffles, lucky dips and the rest? So we already have the principle of a little flutter—perhaps concealed—by bodies that are committed to promoting morality of the most proper kind. There can be no moral objection to what my right hon. Friend is doing—just a warm welcome for it.

We all know that many church activities are supported by a mild flutter. Therefore, I hope that there will not be any great objection on those grounds. One of the beneficiaries should be the great clerical architectural heritage of our country. The cathedrals and the medieval churches will benefit.

If post offices are to be used—and the Post Office is a useful network for establishing contact with a large number of people—urban as well as rural post offices will be considered.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the greatest excitment in doing the football pools is checking the results over the weekend, and that that will continue? People in the United Kingdom are compassionate and they will still want to give to other charities in their own way, so those other charities would not be harmed.

Can my right hon. Friend explain why the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), introduced the gambling argument? I do not know what his experience is, but mine is that the first person to be asked to buy a raffle ticket in a constituency is either the mayor or the Member of Parliament. For many years I have given most generously to so many causes that it is unbelievable. Either the Liberal Democrat spokesman is a mean man or he has a short memory. I am sure that he has bought raffle tickets.

The Liberal Democrat spokesman must struggle with his conscience—[Interruption.] I do not know who would win. As my hon. Friend rightly said, all politicians will be buying raffle tickets this weekend and supporting, in one way or another, a mild form of gambling. I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a strong vein of compassion in our country. One of the endearing characteristics of the British nation is its willingness to give to charitable causes. The flows of money are very substantial, and I do not think that they will be choked by a national lottery.

The right hon. Gentleman's statement will be viewed as utterly reckless and ill considered. It has been presented entirely for electoral purposes. That is shown by the Home Secretary's wild departure today from the Government's statement on this very subject on 17 January. The forthcoming election has caused that.

There have been no consultations with the pools companies. We spoke to them this morning and they are annoyed that the Government have reneged on the promises made by the Under-Secretary of State, who is in his place, on 17 January.

The nature of gambling in Britain is such that none of us here today even knows whether a national lottery is viable—[Interruption.] We do not know. For example, we do not know what form of regulation would be used vis a vis the pools. We do not know what the taxation will be. Will it be 37·5 per cent. as it is for the pools? It would be irresponsible of hon. Members on either side of the House to talk about £1 billion in prizes for good causes when none of us knows what the figure will be.

From his experience of other EC countries, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the probability of two long odds gambling regimes co-existing is very doubtful? There are serious risks. The Belgian experience, to which he referred, was that the pools were wiped out within three weeks. In Britain, that would mean the loss of one third of a billion pounds to the Exchequer. The Government are not bothered about that any more. They are spending money like water—borrowing, borrowing, borrowing.

There are 6,500 full-time jobs on Merseyside and 70,000 collectors' jobs that need to be considered. The right hon. Gentleman had little to say about that. We are also worried—and I cannot underline this enough—about the effect that the lottery could have on charities, especially small charities. It could undermine a great deal of good work in this country. The Labour party wants to ensure that the charities are properly protected.

Labour party policy is to review the fund-raising arrangements for sport, the arts, charities and other bodies, and we will do so when we form the Government in the next few weeks. As we said in September 1991, we shall sympathetically consider the question of a national lottery while ensuring that the football pools and charities are properly protected.

That is not much of a commitment. The hon. Gentleman will have happier appearances at the Dispatch Box than he has had in the past five minutes. The best advice to the Labour party is, "If you are in a hole, stop digging."

The Government have made a clear commitment to introducing a national lottery, and we shall do so. We will get on with it; we will not have reviews. We shall hold discussions immediately with the pools companies and charities to resolve any problems and difficulties. We are convinced that a national lottery will be of great benefit to the nation and to many good causes.